Is Blogging Now A Career Move?

It started with a well-meaning post from Joe Thornley, of Thornley-Fallis Public Relations, one of the savviest PR companies around. Their embrace of social media cheers me up immensely, and Joe writes interestingly and often about how blogging and other social media tools can be used as part of an overall public relations strategy. But when he called blogging an essential for new PR practitioners, a red flag went up for me. He advises students:

I do not hire entry level people without looking at their blog, following their twitter stream and checking their Facebook presence. I want a sense of who they are over time, not just when they are in my office. I want to know what they think on the issues they care about and how they express themselves. I want to see whether and how they connect with others. And I can find out all those things from their social media presence.

It’s not really Joe’s post specifically that bothered me. It’s how it will be interpreted by students eager to line up that first job. I’ve already seen what I call “the rise of the pundit” drain all the personality out of a huge part of the blogosphere. Eager to show how much we know, many of us now use our blogs as soapboxes, hoping to be noticed and hired. Maybe I’m just a crotchety old blogger, but I miss the days when blogs were an extension of a person’s whole life, not just of their job.

In fact, the advice Thornley gives to these students makes me afraid that their “blogs” will be nothing more than collections of sycophantic links to the people they want to notice them, or empty boosterism of a career they’ve yet to fully try on. When the doubts come, and the disappointment, and they finally have something interesting to say, will they be afraid to say it on their blogs?

I’m rehashing a lot of what I said in my comment over on Joe’s site, but one thing I want to repeat is that it would be a real shame if the blog became just an extension of the resumé.

I’ve had a few wobbles lately about crossing the boundary here and talking about work, but ultimately, I want this space to be a true representation of what I am thinking about and struggling with over time. If I was beginning my blog in 2008 instead of way back in 2000, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold that conviction with any confidence. And I find that sad.

Rebecca Blood, pioneer weblog historian, wrote way back in 2000 in Weblogs: A History and Perspective:

As corporate interests exert tighter and tighter control over information and even art, critical evaluation is more essential than ever. As advertisements creep onto banana peels, attach themselves to paper cup sleeves, and interrupt our ATM transactions, we urgently need to cultivate forms of self-expression in order to counteract our self-defensive numbness and remember what it is to be human. We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from “audience” to “public” and from “consumer” to “creator.” Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote.

It’s getting harder to fly that idealistic flag, but I’m not ready to give up yet. The question is, how do we teach students to be fearless when they are being taught to blog in college to make them better employees?

9 thoughts on “Is Blogging Now A Career Move?

  1. I’m sure you’re tired of seeing my name already, and I apologize for that, but here it is again.

    I just wanted to say that this post helped me better understand why you’re skeptical of bloggers such as myself.

    I guess my next move is to convince you I’m not rapidly circulating this ‘sphere for selfish reasons.

    Although, to be honest, we are sometimes taught (by not only our professors, but also professionals we admire) that being active in social media will help build our personal brand, and we should work proactively online in order to do so.

    I can see the blurry lines from here.

  2. Rayanne, thanks for jumping in. That proves that you have some of that fearlessness that I desperately hope isn’t disappearing like the polar ice caps!

    I’m glad that you’ve found a career that you are passionate about. To be honest, I’m exploring the field myself and that’s how I’ve found so many interesting new blogs. But I worry that now that we’re aware that The Boss (or The Potential Boss) might be reading, we’re going to censor ourselves and perhaps lose a bit of our souls in the process.

  3. James,

    Fearlessness is not saying anything you want when you know nobody is listening.

    Fearlessness is saying exactly what you want when you know the world is listening.

    While I agree that knowing potential dates, employers and investors are reading what you have to say can put a damper on creativity and self expression – it can also open the door for more cohesive thought, clarity and distilled versions of that aforementioned creativity.

    Technology, social morays and society are always in flux. Those with a real need for self-expression adapt and create within those structures.

  4. James,

    I’m not as worried as you are that people will transform their blogs and social media presence into dry, empty online resumes.

    I believe that if people only link to potential employers and say the things those employers might want to hear, their blogs will be boring and their tactic will be seen for what it is.

    Those folks won’t hold the attention of potential employers who will have clicked away to find the truly interesting, creative elsewhere.

  5. Lex and Joe, thanks for your comments. I’m probably overreacting, but I’m doing it on purpose because I don’t see anybody else worrying about this in the slightest.

    Perhaps the solution is like email or telephone numbers. Have one for work and one for home. Don’t give everyone your home (ie. personal) blog address. They might still find it, but at least it’s giving people fair warning that it’s your personal space, to vent or talk about your cat or whatever.

    Still, the idealist/anarchist in me doesn’t want to have to bow to this new paradigm.

    I’ll have to admit, though, that my own Toronto Screen Shots blog came out of a desire to have my film writing taken more seriously by publicists, etc. I still write what I like there, but it’s tightly focussed on one subject.

    It can be harder to keep the focus on a subject students are just learning about, like the PR field, but I do see the value in encouraging people to try.

    Still, I wonder often if bloggers are born and not made? Another discussion, perhaps?

  6. Hi James,

    Great post! I have to agree with you; I think many students will start to try on blogs just to use them as a way to sell it as a credential to employers.

    However, I also think employers are shrewd enough to see through this guise, and recognize those who are writing to say something from those who are writing to be something.

    Secondly, as far as the fearless factor, I don’t think blogging will ever inhibit students and hinder good conversation. There’s way more for them to fear from what can be found on their Facebook page!

    Anyways, great post once again and I’ll add you to my blogroll! Cheers!

  7. James, you said, “but I miss the days when blogs were an extension of a person’s whole life, not just of their job.” I totally agree! I miss when it was just about people connecting.

    Great post.

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